Archive for the ‘From my vantage point’ Category

Train like a lady

Posted: December 17, 2015 in From my vantage point

A lot of ladies are able to radiate their beauty because they train, either in the weights room or with the activity that they love. Beautiful here means they have inner beauty that manifests in how they carry themselves. Ladies who train to improve their physical strength and abilities have a certain aura of confidence which sets them apart and makes them outstanding. There may be a lot of pretty faces out there and a lot are so unattractive due to their vain or other unlady like characteristics. Here are eight things that a lady should do when training be it in the weights room, boxing gym, or anywhere else:


  1. Practice good hygiene habits. Putting on makeup, having colorful nails and the latest hairdo are useless if you stink. Lipstick won’t hide teeth stains and plaque. Beauty cannot shine out if it is covered by lousy grooming. Good grooming is beautiful.


  1. Shave armpit hair especially if you wear sleeveless shirts. This is obviously a part of hygiene but has to be emphasized since it really stands out. Visualize a lady with make up wearing sleeveless body hugging shirt doing pink dumbell presses while seated on that red stability ball. Zoom in on her armpits as she raises her arms. You see thick forests hidden under each armpit. Instead of emitting fresh oxygen, those dark forests emit fumes rich in sulfur and nitrogen. Now zoom out you vision and look at her face. What do you see? Definitely not a gorilla. That’s an orangutan.armpi


  1. Dress modestly when you train. It takes two to tango and girls who wear clothes that reveal their internal organs are inviting a lot of attention. It is good to show off your assets but do it in the right place and don’t overdo it.



  1. Lift weights first before you do your cardio. Most ladies say they do not want to be muscular and want to trim off that bulge. They also want round, firm butts. The way to do that is to train big muscle groups with enough intensity so that they would increase your metabolism. The squat exercise trains the gluteus maximus,  gluteus medius, gluteus minimus, adductor magnus and longus, quadriceps femoris, rectus femoris, erector spinae, and around a dozen more muscles with latin sounding names. I intentionally used those anatomical nomenclature since people want things to sound sophisticated so they would buy into it and feel it makes them so complicated too. Then after your strength training, you can do those cardio exercises while snapping selfies with pouty lips. That burns 2.738% more calories. Selfies with teasing cleavage burns 3.28% a lady trains


  1. Use less make-up and ornaments. The gym is not a place to show off jewelries. They would only be damaged, be lost, or cause unnecessary injuries.




  1. Long hair should be tied in a pony tail. Long and untied hair can get into your eyes or anybodies eyes. They can get entangled in cables. And they distract you every time you execute the exercise.


  1. A lady, or anyone else, should not starve herself just before training. Yes, most ladies are obsessed with decreasing their body weight and most starve themselves to do that. If you have not eaten for the past 6 hours or so, have a sandwich and drink a glass of water or fruit juice 30 minutes to 1 hour before you train. Good food is good fuel. You need to fuel your neuromuscular system to be able to focus on what you are doing. Ok, you are looking for those words: You need to have enough GLUCOSE so that you can ENGAGE your CORE, FIRE UP your GLUTES, ACTIVATE your POSTERIOR CHAIN and STABILIZE your glenohumeral joint. There…

See related topic:“Why Lose Weight?”

  1. A lady is not afraid to become physically strong. Strong but not necessarily big and muscular. Sometimes ladies may hold themselves back due to perceived “norms” that ladies cannot lift heavy. Ladies can definitely lift heavy without becoming too muscular. It just comes down to a well guided strength training plan. Whatever your fitness goal is, increasing muscular strength helps you reach that goal- be it to lose body fat, to be able to cope with taking care of children, or to be among the best athletes in the world in your sport.


    Credit to Grace. Among the best Karate (Kata) in the world.


The lady athletes who train need not be told about these a lot of times or they find out the hard way. It may be a bit different in commercial gyms but if you plan to train in any gym, remember that good grooming is a must. I remember one time my wife and I were in a group Muay Thai Class. One time, there was a lady in the group who had a terrible body odor. It was already an embarrassing situation so everybody was trying not to make a fuss about it. But when the instructor told us to pair up, the tough looking guy closest to her was so quick in grabbing a partner at the opposite end of the gym. No one is that tough against a terrible body odor. 

Ladies who truly want to be stronger and better at what they do are some of the best trainees to work with. They acknowledge their weakness and listen to feedback. They are truly beautiful since they know how to take care of themselves- with good grooming and a healthy lifestyle. These ladies Train Better! Live Better!

Related post: How a Real Man Trains

A man has to be strong. Strong in body, stronger in mind, strives to be undefeatable in spirit. A man does not need to be very massive to be one. But he needs to be strong for people who depend on him. Here are 6 things that a real man would do about training in the weights room:

  1.  Acknowledge your weakness.


Everyone has his weakness. Even Superman has a weakess. Training is a form of acknowleging a weakness and working to lessen that weakness. In the bodybuilding weights room, the guy who has enormous arms, mountainous shoulders and hulking chest but with twig like thighs is an example of someone who has not acknowledged his weak areas. Men shoud accept negative comments and learn from them. If you have no weakness, there is no need to train. And that’s boring.

2.  Train as a gentleman.

A real man puts the weight plates, dumbells, and other toys back where they should be. I am assigned perpetually on the late shift in the gym where I work. I took it as a man and tried not to moan about it… I said tried. Other guys might be too scared to see the beings that appear on the gym walls at night anyway. There was a time when the cleaners were told to clean up the gym in the evening. When I got back to the gym after my dinner break, there was this old lady cleaner trying to tidy up the floor. She was attempting to put the 45 & 35 lb plates back to the plate rack. They were strewn across the floor by the supposedly big and strong guys who used the bench press and on the smith machine an hour earlier. They left a big mess. The lady could be my mother. Since I can’t speak her language, I just motioned to her not to bother with the plates and dumbells. It is not her responsibility in the first place. It took some time of re-educating those university guys about gym ethics. Sad to say, the mess still happens, but not as much. Real men train hard to make this world a better place, not to make a mess. We desperately need good examples. So be one!

3.  Train like you mean it.

bp spotMake pretend training does not make you stronger or better. If you do this, do not get your strength coach involved either. He can also play make pretend and pretend he is spotting you on the bench press when he is actually pushing the bar down to your neck. And he can mean it.

4.  Use that strength or you lose it.

farmer's walk valstrengthtraining

Exercise aficionados call this exercise the Farmer’s Walk. In here it is called “Don’t wait for the facilities department to refill the water dispenser, just do it yourself walk.” exercise.

Training for aesthetics is great. But better back up all those bulging muscles with useful work. If you don’t use what you have, it will be just for display, then it will fade away. So take the stairs, refill that water dispenser, and be more useful. If you were on a farm, you can train all day. Do some farmer’s walk with those grocery bags.

5. Train to prepare but prepare to train.

“Be prepared!” I love the Scouting movement and this is what I learned from it. It taught us, as young boys then, a lot of skills and we had great adventures. Training in the gym is preparing for life’s challenges. But then how can you train when you forgot to bring your training clothes? There was a time when one of the kids I was training forgot his pair of shorts for training. He was asking me if I have a spare one. I told him to go home and get his. I wanted him to learn his lesson and to take accountability. But then this colleague of mine lent him his shorts! He probably would lend his toothbrush too. The supposedly golden opportunity for the athlete to learn suddenly disappeared. Anyway, the lesson will always present itself until learnt. Going back, forget about your smartphone, or gloves. You can train better without them. But this what you should do. The night before your training session, put in your bag a clean training shirt, a pair of training shorts or pants, socks, training shoes, a towel, a water bottle with water, your gym access card if there is and if you are required upon entry. Optional would be some snacks. Your phone better stay in your bag. If you have those apps for training, it is your choice if you would use them. On your training day, you just grab your bag and you are ready. Serious lifters bring their own lifting belt, wraps, and straps. But they do not need this reminder. This is more for those who still did not develop the habit or lifestyle of incorporating training in their schedule.

6. Train for others first, for yourself second.

valstrengthtraining coastguardTraining for yourself is easy. But remember, others depend on you. Train to keep your body strong so it can withstand the challenges that life brings, be it physical or otherwise. Majority of the fittest people in the world may not be professional athletes, but fitness is a big requirement in their calling. They are enduring challenging conditions. They are doing what they do in order for other people to live comfortably. They are the farmers, construction workers, manual labourers, coastguards, soldiers, firemen, security guards, policemen, EMT’s, miners, fishermen, and many others. Many cannot afford to train in gyms but they get fit because of what they do on a daily basis. Some have to have extra training since failing in their task means other people’s lives are affected. So dedicate your training to those around you. Remember, when you train for others, you train with honor, you Train Better, Live Better!

Val Ramos Jr.

The circumstances in life is different for everybody. Some are born with genetic predisposition to be obese, some with bulging calves, and other perceived “imperfections”. The further away our predisposition is from our “model”, the harder it would be to attain what we want. People are naturally drawn to what is beautiful.
The media can influence our minds into what to think as “beautiful”. But what is beautiful? It can be anything. So we should strive to bring out what is beautiful in us rather than trying to attain a certain standard of “beauty”. It is refreshing to see the fashion and modeling industry come up with “plus size” models and outfits. It is time that we realize that beauty comes in different forms.

plus size beauty

Photo courtesy of google.

Since people come in all sizes and shapes, training programs come in an infinite variety too. We just need to choose what works best for us in achieving what we want. We take into consideration our circumstances and be pragmatic rather idealist.lady athletes body types


Keep in mind that we are in a consumer oriented society. Facts can be twisted by businesses to sell. If you ask “experts”, you may get conflicting advice. Google has too many experts for you to choose from. Try facebook! Almost everyone there is an expert. Most probably you would listen to the one who will tell you what you want to hear. But most likely, that may be different from what you need to hear. That is why coaches who know how to train an individual to reach his/her maximum potential may not have much clients. Being honest sometimes is not appreciated. Probably clients want their Personal Trainers to bend to their whims.  If they refuse to “dance to the music”, clients would leave and go to the trainer who knows how to talk and to please the clients, but not necessarily train. The clients may
have stated their goals but their expectations are different. Or the coach may not have listened well and is imposing what he wants that the client does not need.

To get straight to the point, ask yourself what is your goal. Better write it down. Then ask yourself WHY many times over. Most, if not all, would lead to the most basic answer “because I want to be happy…”. To be healthy makes you happy, to be sexy, to be attractive… What makes you into such? You have many options. You can take some pills, go under the knife, or have an expensive wardrobe. Some would do the old fashioned way- they train, and avoid eating too much oily and creamy stuff or too much of any food. They rest well. It takes discipline and perseverance. It is not easy for some.

So what does this have to do with fitness? If you think being healthier open & honestand fit makes
you happy, that’s great! If you think a personal trainer or coach can help you, that’s correct. But choose very well. Some are good in talking and entertaining their clients. If you are happy just to chat with someone while you pretend to train, that’s entirely up to you. Some are coaches and they would train you, and probably chit chat is not what is in their minds. They may not be very good in entertaining. But that is how they produce tangible results. If actual results are what you are after, you would be better off with this type. You know that each session may not be easy but that is how you can improve. The final say is up to you. You walk your own path. There are many out there who can show you how to get to your intended destination.
Ask how they intend to train you, who they trained, and other stuff. A mentor commented that teaching and coaching is about relationships. That’s true. There are many technically good coaches but may not work well with particular personalities. If the trainee and the coach or fitness professional respect and listen to each other, the training program is easier to design and implement. So have a clear goal and be honest to yourself and to your coach. That way you would be happy to Train Better! Live Better!

Val Ramos Jr.

The Magic Pill

Posted: September 29, 2015 in From my vantage point

“This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill — the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill — you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.” Morpheus


That was a famous line from the 1999 movie “The Matrix”. In real life, what if you were given a medicine that when taken regularly, would reduce the negative effects of aging, would you take it? If you plan to enjoy your retirement years, remain independent, and most of all healthy, you should. It is your decision but I am here to influence you.

But it is not a pill that you swallow. It is something you have to do. It is called regular physical activity- exercise in short. Given the consumer mindset of most people in our society today, something has to be bought, and has to be expensive, for it to be given importance. It also has to be convenient and packaged colorfully. Exercise is no different.

Depending on its presentation, people would either love it or hate it. In the fitness industry, there are all sorts of hype to promote the business of fitness. Sometimes, the information in the advertisement is misleading but then, for some people, it is what gets them to exercise. It would be better not to wait for something wrong to happen to you before you start exercising. I am not working for a commercial gym and in my current situation, I do not have to sell my services. I get paid the same amount if I train a hundred or just one athlete. It is not a joke, it does happen. I just find it helpful for me to write a blog where I can channel some of my thoughts which can be easily shared since a lot of people ask for information. So I just have to write the facts and my own personal observation. No sugarcoating. No fancy packaging. It may not be attractive, but it should be useful. It is even free. That could be the worst part. If it is free, people won’t take notice. The message may not be absorbed. Well, it still won’t change the fact that a regular physical activity is a worthwhile endeavor. It improves the quality of life. It is like a fountain of youth. When I was a Strength Coach in the Philippine Center for Sports Medicine, I was lucky to have chatted with John Baylon, an outstanding athlete and Judoka in South East Asia. He started late in the sport of Judo but he loved the sport so much that he is able to withstand tremendous challenges and was he become an unbeaten Champion in South East Asia. He said something like “A day without Judo is like a day without sunshine.”

People would have a particular activity that they would love. It is never too late to do something. You may try walking or cycling and it may lead you to what you want to do. The bottom line is do a physical activity you love that it makes you look forward to doing it. That is  way better than choosing to swallow a handful of pills everyday just to be alive. So if you ask me would I choose the Blue Pill or the Red Pill. My answer is I would also take the green, orange, and yellow. Those are M&M’s! I see them as trail food! Train Better! Live Better!


Thinking back, I am very grateful to have been given the privilege to coach special kids. Special here means Mentally Handicapped. Honestly, I was not looking forward to it. Majority of Strength Coaches only work with “regular” athletes. I was thinking I would rather be decked with a very large team, but I guess I am not with the majority now. The weights room is not a playroom and being a non-Chinese speaker, I knew relaying instructions to special kids in Hong Kong would be a big challenge. To minimize injury risk, some degree of discipline and attention is required and instructions have to be understood well,  things which seem not to be on my side. Even with a background as a Physical Therapist who had some experience working with kids who have cerebral palsy, I was still apprehensive when I was asked to coach the Hong Kong Sports Association for the Mentally Handicapped athletics team. And due to my chinky eyes, people usually mistake me for a local, so when they talk to me in Chinese and I say I can’t understand, sometimes they think I am being aloof. I was worried that the kids might think I am just discriminating. It seems a challenging task,  but then again, challenges makes us better! 

From the seas to the gym

Just before working in Hong Kong, I served my country thru the Coast Guard. In the Coast Guard, applicants have to go through a series of tests. Only those who have the wits, physical abilities and mental resiliency to face tough challenges can be accepted. And during training, a trainee who cannot cope will be expelled. I still carried some of this rigidness when I ventured back into civilian life as a Strength Coach. After all, if we are to produce the best athletes, we have to weed out the less desirable ones. Only the best of the best should remain and those who remain can have the chance to develop themselves. I try to use this standard for the athletes and for myself. Like what we say in the Coastguard “Do first before you complain.” In the Sports Institute, many teams avail of Strength and Conditioning services and I was assigned 4 teams (so much for wishing for it!) including the SAM Athletics team B (Sports Association for the Mentally Handicapped) as well as a few individuals. I told myself “I have been thru a lot worst and survived. If I cannot handle this I should not stay here.”

Kids and coaches with big hearts

Going back into being a Strength Coach, I found myself standing in front of a group of special kids whose ages range from 14 to late teens but with developmental age of around 8 to 12 year olds. It is not very reassuring to know that their coach and assistant coach do not speak English. At least two of the kids understand a bit. They are lucky to be in this part of the world because there is a program that lets them participate in sports and be given the chance to avail of the services of a Strength & Conditioning Coach.

Dec2014 052

The SAM Athletics Kids doing a circuit training as the assistant coach keeps a watchful eye.

The kids are so innocent. They listened when I spoke but some cannot maintain eye contact. What I remember on our first session is that it was only me talking since they were just looking at me. I  related my words to the actions then demonstrated body weight squats. I realized their coach and assistant coach were good because the kids know that after instruction and demonstration, they follow. This is a big ray of hope! Thanks to their coach, there is a way to connect to them. Most cannot do the movements as smoothly as expected nor as controlled. But I can see that they are trying their best. That is what separates winners from losers. These kids have big hearts and for me, that is the most important quality. After demonstrating some exercises, I arranged them into a “circuit”. Their coach instructed them taking my cue. Then we started. A quick glance at them doing the movements tells me there is a lot of work to be done. Not only on them but also on me. This is a big chance to develop myself further as a Strength Coach. I have to dig deep into what I learned many years ago to distinguish if their inability to perform the prescribed exercises is due to an inherent physical limitation, weakness, assymetrical limb length, coexisting poor motor control, or simply due to poor instructions.

Their Sports coach and Assistant coach are two of the most dedicated coaches I have worked with. We may not talk but we communicate. They are always there every training session. They instilled discipline among the kids and it helps them big time. The athletes show up for training on time, and train together. No time is wasted making excuses. Their discipline is commendable and this is where they are a lot better than “regular” athletes. The coaches would watch me demonstrate, and I emphasize something by repeating the part and using simple hand gestures. The coach then relays to the kids if there is a new instruction. We keep it simple. She wants her athletes to be better athletes by improving their strength, power, quickness, and general fitness. That is my specialty and she lets me do my job. She is like a mother and the assistant coach is the big sister for the kids. Under their watchful eyes the kids are doing very well and they must have developed their good attitude because of their hardworking coaches.

A peek into their training

They train twice a week and the very first week was used to assess what exercises they can do as well as to structure their training sessions. Even if they are special, they are not treated as weaklings. As weeks turned to months, the exercises became more complex and the load is getting heavier. We progressed from establishing a training structure & mode of instruction to teaching exercises and now to making them stronger and more powerful. The “Set system” is used for the main training and we finish with a circuit. They exert a lot of effort and they do not complain. In fact they enjoy and look forward to it. Their bodies responded to training by becoming stronger and more powerful. They seemed to have improved their motor control as well.

I let the kids use the Olympic weightlifting set as one tool. Lifting just the standard bar, which is 20kg., can be a training by itself. It is classified as a “free weight” equipment. The whole body has to cooperate to lift, to stabilize, and to control the bar. The set of olympic plates that we use is color coded. Plates below 10kg are smaller. Starting from, 10kg, plates are 45cm in diameter. 10kg is green, 15kg is yellow, 20kg is blue, and 25kg is red. A Strength Coach can have a quick look at a loaded olympic bar and know how heavy it is just by the number of plates and the colors. For example, a standard bar (20kg) and one big green plate on each end (10kg each) would be 40kg in total. Relatively stronger athletes would usually be lifting 45cm plates and warm up sets are usually green plates. I remember the first time that the kids used green plates- this means they lift a total of 40kg. Their faces showed a mixture of emotions all at once. They were scared, excited, and amazed- almost in disbelief. After they did a successful set of the lift, you can see triumph in their faces. It is like they got “promoted” to a higher rank. They realized that they improved well and that they can do what the “stronger” and bigger athletes are doing. It is a magical moment that is worth all the effort. One of the moments that I would not exchange.

Watching from afar

On days when they do not train in the gym, they are trained by their track coach in sprints. Some in long jump. The gym has glass walls that allow a great view of the running track. I know all the scholarship athletes by face. I would watch the “regular” athletes practice on the rack from the gym when I am not busy. Then I saw one guy who sprinted past as I was watching from afar. I did not recognize him so I stayed and waited for his next set. When I looked closely, it was one of the special kids! When he is not running, he looks like a thin kid. But when he sprints, he transforms. So free, so powerful, his thin, sinewy muscles suddenly bristling.  That is why I mistook him as a “regular” sprinter. It is just beautiful watching them run and be at their best. It is a moment when their handicaps disappear and they shine through.

po 011

SAM Athletics Team B Coach and Assistant Coach training the kids on the track.

Their development

They do compete outside of Hong Kong. They went to China in 2014 and were successfull. They also represented Hong Kong in the Special Olympics World Games 2015 in L.A., USA and they brought home medals. They need those achievements to be able to avail of their scholarship at the Hong Kong Sports Institute. The way I see it, those are just by products of their hard work. The best reward is that they are happy and are developing near their maximum potential and experiencing trying moments as well as victories.

sam medal 8 Aug 2015 Special Olympics World Games LA 2015 (3)

The coach of team A also asked me to coach his special athletes. This means team A and team B will have to split the twice a week training sessions. Each team will train once a week only. That is a 50% reduction in training volume but we just have to make the most of what we have. Due to a good foundation, we were still able to progress with the complexity of exercise. Team A has more experienced athletes and are physically more powerful. After a year, four of the best athletes in Team B got promoted to Team A. They were excited, and scared at the same time. But their training prepared them for that of the Team A. The guys in Team A were like big brothers to them who welcomed them just as excited.

It is a great feeling to see their development, and also influence it positively. Among all the teams I have ever worked with, their team is one of the best and most memorable. The chance to coach them is a gift. The kids are giving me the chance to give back. They are making me appreciate things which are taken for granted. I would say taught me well and are still teaching me. They Train Better! Live Better!


China 2014


Los Angeles 2015


Dec2014 061

The SAM Athletics kid cooling down after a training session. Their coach (5th from left) and assistant coach (7th from left) watch over them.

Lessons learned

Posted: September 15, 2015 in From my vantage point

When I was younger, I told myself that being a Strength and Conditioning coach is my dream job. While most would pay to train in a gym for 1 hour, I could be in the gym all day and get paid for it! But that got me bored after a few years. I shifted career and enjoyed new adventures. I experienced working conditions far from the comforts of a gym but was still able to apply knowledge and skills about training to myself and to my unit. Then, as if by fate, I found myself working again as a Strength Coach. This time it is not a dream job, but a real job.

the thinker

Shifting careers and going back made me appreciate a lot of things. Working for different countries also made me see some realities. Here are some of my thoughts:

  1. The Strength and Conditioning Coach is relatively unknown in Asia. Even after the Beijing Olympics, many sports coaches and athletes in Asia do not know that there is a coach whose job is to improve the athleticism of athletes so that the sports coach can focus on their sports skills and strategies. The hiring managers sometimes confuse a strength coach with a personal trainer, an athletic trainer, a group exercise instructor, and so on. Obviously there are mismatches between the job title and responsibilities. When people ask me what my job is, I always get a puzzled look after I tell them.
  1. It is  relatively less stressful than other jobs. It depends on one’s expectations, the management, colleagues, and general attitude of athletes and sports coaches. But it is up to the Strength Coach to find fulfillment in what he or she does. Being in a position to compare it to other jobs, I say it is relatively less stressful. Well, sometimes…
  1. It is a thankless job.  The Strength Coach takes pride in being able to influence an athlete positively but should not expect medals being hung on his neck. It is the athlete’s job to receive medals. The Strength Coach is just one of the many support staff working in a Sports Institution. Most of the time, other support staff always want to have a say about the athlete’s strength training. Mostly it is being wrongly blamed for injuries, causing too much gain in body weight for a growing boy, not enough “cardio”, “core”, and “stabilization” work, not enough supervision, training is not fun, tires the athletes, and so on. Most of the accusations are just plain BS and if the Strength coach just wants to please everyone of the “experts”, the result is a useless training program. But when it comes to giving credit to the strength gains and power improvement, no one remembers the Strength and Conditioning Coach. Other “experts” always attribute it to their “excellent” advice. And no one also remembers the janitors and maintenance guys who work to make things run smoothly. They deserve credit for their efforts too.
  1. Strength and Conditioning is a piece of a big puzzle, just like all others. To be honest, so many factors affect performance. It is not possible to give an accurate numeric rating on how much it has contributed to an athlete’s success. But this is also true for all other interventions like nutrition, psychology, & rehabilitation. Studies which measure the contribution of Strength and Conditioning to a certain activity is very specific to the subjects in that particular study. In the real world, everything contributes to performance- both positively and negatively. It is impractical to try to measure accurately how one factor contributed to a given outcome. We can just infer intelligently. Keep it simple. Will the athlete be better if he or she is stronger, faster, more powerful, and injury resistant? What would make the athlete stronger and more powerful?
  1. The Strength and Conditioning Coach is an easy target. The Strength Coach is easily targeted as an escape goat for poor performance but rarely thanked for his or her positive contributions. Imagine removing strength training. This would affect all other support staff: injury risks increase, strength drops which lowers power, speed, and endurance. Athletes won’t be as confident compared to a well trained and more athletic opponent, more work for sports coaches to get their athletes into competition fitness, & no escape goat for other staff who do not know what they are doing.
  2. Learning never ends. There are basic principles that do not change, and there are new concepts. Situations and conditions are very dynamic. A Strength and Conditioning coach has to keep learning to keep up with the developments while differentiating fads from useful concepts. Sports rules change and this has implications on Strength Training. As sports rules change, strategies and tactics need to change. Physical preparation enhances the most effective winning strategies  and as rules modify strategies, so would physical preparation. And a lot of physical preparation is done by the Strength and Conditioning Coach.
  1. Play politics if you want to be famous. Office politics plays a big role in everyone’s career. Some Strength Coaches “choose” the athletes he or she works with. Some choose to work with already famous athletes and then suddenly take credit for the athlete’s success. Some patiently coach and work for a year or two with athletes who may not seem talented. But when the athlete starts to improve and becomes famous, others would take credit. That always happens. Shit happens.

These personal observations are shared so that any aspiring Strength and Conditioning Coach knows what to expect from the real world. It is not always smooth sailing yet it can be rewarding. The pay is just enough but if money is not your ultimate goal, it is a great job to show others how to Train Better! Live Better!

Hong Kong is a great place to live in, whether you agree or not. Cost of living here is high, that is just how it is. Rent increases a lot faster than the increase of a lifter’s load. The way around it is to look for cheaper rents. With a lot of patience and luck, you can find one. As of the writing of this post, I have been here in Hong Kong for 6 years and already moved to four different locations. Moving from one flat to another every few years is quite common in Hong Kong and an industry is built to support this necessity. Many companies specialize in moving an entire household to a new location. Being a Strength and Conditioning coach and moving to another house are not in the same type of business but there are similarities between them.

      1. Specialize, it is worth it.

The moving companies provide a much needed special service.  They encounter different conditions in their line of work that they developed and refined methods to solve problems. They keep improving and it shows in their speed and efficiency. A Strength and Conditioning coach is a specialized coach. Specialization allows more exposure to your selected area which encourages development of knowledge, and skills essential for efficient task completion. Going further, subspecialization makes task execution almost perfect. A Strength and Conditioning Coach is a specialist whose target population is the athletic population. They focus on the strength & conditioning aspect of training and they do it very well because it is their main focus. Some Strength coaches work with specific sports and it makes them more efficient for that sport.

  1.  You can’t do it alone.

In the Philippines, we have a word- “Bayanihan”. It describes the community helping a family to move house- literally move house. The traditional house is made out of light materials. The men of the community would lift the entire house & move it to the desired location since the land is owned by the whole community. Bayanihan entails teamwork. At present, house designs are permanent and it is not possible to lift an entire house. The word then evolved to mean helping each other. 

Bayanihan. Image from google.

Bayanihan. Image from google.

At present, it would be time consuming to move all the stuff alone. Some items require two men to safely carry down the stairs. It can be done by one man but the end result would be a broken furniture, a landlord complaining of walls full of scratches, and the lifter with a sore back. A moving company makes use of a team to make the task faster, easier and safer.

Working in a team requires members with their own specialization who work to achieve a common goal in mind. A wise Sports Coach would use the services of a Strength and Conditioning Coach for his/her athletes. This frees him/her from the stress of designing and implementing a Strength training program and gives her/him time and energy to focus on Sports coaching. The end result would be better Sports coaching and better Strength and Conditioning.

  1.  Learn to let go.

Moving to another place may be seen as bothersome but behind the hassle is a new chance to make it right. You get to unload unnecessary baggages. We have the habit of buying and keeping things that we like even if we don’t use them. Now is the time to let them go. Give them away or just leave them in the garbage bins for recycling. Same with other aspects of life, we need to let go of our frustrations. We should also be open to other ideas which seem “small” but are actually more efficient than previous ideas. Sports coaches should also learn to listen to the point of view of experienced support staff and let them do their job instead of trying to compete with them. Strength and Conditioning coaches should also accept the fact that athletes move on in different aspects of life. One of the best feeling that I have which makes me enjoy work is the thought that I am given the chance to make positive contributions in the life of athletes be it young kids to master athletes nearing sixties. They move on and if they look back to say a simple “Thanks!”, it makes you feel great. If they don’t, you should not expect it anyway. Let it go…

  1.  Look forward to the positive.

There will always be “bad” and “good” aspects of everything. It would be hard to find a suitable place if we always look at the “bad” aspects. We moved to a place even farther than where we used to stay. It may seem inconvenient. But it is a very good way to learn discipline and time management. We are learning to sleep on time, wake up early as well as getting things done quick. In the same manner, inserting a Strength and Conditioning training program in the sports training takes up valuable time. But if used very well, it is time very well invested. Return of investment is seen in performance improvement as well as reduced injury risks. Look forward to the positive results. In the same way, it seems that the Strength Coach’s schedule is already full, but he or she is asked to coach another team with a senior and junior squad plus the Elite guys. Just thinking about it makes one tired. But sometimes, thinking of the excited faces of new athletes eager to learn makes you look forward to training.

  1. Physical strength is always an asset.

Our society relies a lot on laborers who earn an honest living by working under the hot sun, carrying heavy stuff, and doing physically demanding work. We complain a lot yet all the dirty work is being done by other people who may not have a lot of option. The guys who carried the heavy stuff are 1 to 2 decades older than me. And they rely on their strength to make a living. I respect them since they make an honest living and have real functional strength as compared to a lot of vain young men who may have 6 pack abs and big arms but who cannot even lift a bag full of groceries.
Life is full of parallels and fantasies. We can learn from them only if we see them and see through the illusions. Training is like a mini- life story. We undergo some challenges. These challenges make us stronger. Learn training lessons from life and vice versa. That way, we Train Better, Live Better!

When friends and strangers in the internet ask for fitness advice, the first thing that comes to mind is “Do no harm.”. To be effective, advice given should be understood by the recipient and used as intended by the “online coach”. Bear in mind that online advice can not take the place of actual supervised training. It is a very good supplement to actual training provided that the “trainee” understands what she or he is doing and knows how to relay useful information to the online coach so as to receive appropriate feedback. The danger in giving advice online is that it may be misunderstood. If this happens, it would not produce the intended results in the expected time and eventually the trainee will lose interest. Or worst, it may cause injuries or trigger a heart attack waiting to coaching

To make the most out of online “consultation” whether free or paid, do the following first:

  1. Level expectations

– Specify what is it that you seek for and ask the online coach if he/she can help you online. Expectations should be leveled and the coach will advise you on what is needed to be done first. You should provide honest information as to what you are willing to do outside your comfort zone. With this information, the coach will also know if you are really committed.

– A written “Training Program” will not magically transform your body nor improve your health. The magic starts with you doing what you need to do for yourself.

  1. Clarify your training goal

– Sometimes the terms you used may have different meaning to your “online coach”. The word “strength” means the amount of maximum force generated by muscular effort. A lot of people think strong means big bulging muscles. This creates situation wherein the training program is not designed for the goal and this is caused by a simple misuse of a word. Spending time clarifying training goals saves a lot of training hours by having a focused training program. Make sure that both you and the coach use simple words which mean the same thing to both of you.

–  Is it something that you need or something you want? You may want to have 6 pack abdominal muscles but the coach may be suggesting something that needs to be addressed first before what you want may be realized.

3.  Do not compare yourself to others

– In the poem Desiderata, there is a line that says “do not compare yourselves with others, as always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself”. The best person to compare yourself to is to yourself. Were you a better person than last week? Are you stronger now than last month? 

  1. Research first

– I decided to write blogs because I get emails asking for free fitness and rehab advice. I used to answer the questions individually like a usual correspondence that goes back and forth. But a lot of those who ask for free online advice do not seem to value the time and effort used to answer their questions- they do not reply to questions about them related to the advice they seek.

– I realized that a lot of questions are quite general and coach “Google” is always ready to answer. Waiting for the feedback of strangers who ask for free advice can also be frustrating since I devote time and effort to share what I know but then sometimes I get no feedback about the outcome. I then realized that people are lazy and they just don’t do their part and if I oblige, I am just encouraging bad despicable attitude. So before asking for free online advice, it would be best to do some research first and apply what is learned, then if there is still a particular question, that is the time to ask for that specific question to the person who has the qualifications and experience to answer your query.  Some would charge for giving advice since it takes a lot of money to acquire the knowledge and experience needed to answer those questions.

  1. Write down your goal or question and read it. If you are able to write down your goal or question, it is clearer.
  1. Realize that you are ultimately responsible for your health and safety even if you asked for advice.

-Physical activities have their inherent risks and these are minimized with supervision and guidance. So practice a lot of caution when you train alone. Make sure you understand whatever advice you asked for and ask for options if there are.

So to my friends who I have not seen for years and who asked for a “Training Program”, you probably were disappointed when I did not send you one. The truth is, I value your health and I understand that even apparently healthy individuals suddenly collapse while doing a new physical activity. It would be irresponsible to just dish out a training regimen when I do not know what you are capable or incapable of now. It would be better to “teach you how to fish” rather than just giving you a “fish” which you do not know how to cook. This is a free piece of advice. And the best things in life are free. Use it to Train Better, Live Better!

Time is gold so when you go train in a gym, train smart. What you do should have a sound basis and should contribute in your improvement. A lot of things are plain common sense but nowadays vanity made common sense quite rare. So here are 5 things to avoid so as not to look like a fool in a weights room:


  1. Dropping dumbells on the floor

– dumbells are meant to be gripped and no matter how tired you are, you can always hold on to the dumbell until it safely rests on the rack or floor. Rare exemptions may be dumbells weighing more than 100lbs but again, treat the equipment properly, if they are not meant to be dropped, do not drop them.

– some dumbells are secured with screws and constant dropping loosens them. The plates may fall on somebody’s face hopefully on the one who likes dropping them.

– it is just my theory that people want to be noticed and the noise that the dropped dumbell creates says “hey! look at me! I am working out! yohooo… please look at me….”


  1. Reading or watching videos on the phone while doing leg press

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– The leg press exercise requires some concentration, and for strength training it is loaded with heavy weights. Even when trying to improve local muscular endurance, the weight used is heavy enough to require some effort. You cannot expect to execute it safely when you are distracted with your phone.

– Training in a weights room, if done well, can be a very focused experience wherein distractions are set aside and you face yourself and exert a bit more effort. Effort may mean more weight, or more sets, or more reps, or more focused technique, or compound exercise as opposed to isolated movement. It is a chance to be better than your previous self.

– If your goal is to relax and watch videos, that can be done at the convenience of your home, while saving you from being looked upon as someone who wastes the space and oxygen in the weights room.


  1. Doing plyometrics on a thick Airex Foam

– Plyometrics exercises are done with a quick stretch to the agonist, followed by a forceful concentric contraction. The amortization phase, the time between the eccentric to concentric should be short so as to take advantage of the reflexive properties of the muscle-tendon series. Using a foam to cushion the fall would dampen the “shock” that stretches the agonistic muscle. This prolongs the amortization phase thereby rendering it ineffective to elicit the reflexive powerful contraction.

– If the objective is to strengthen the intrinsic foot muscles, towel pulling exercises with the foot (see related post) and simply walking barefoot over a grassy lawn for a few minutes would do the trick- and this is not a plyometric exercise.


  1. Using the foam rollers before training and having a massage later on.

– the foam rollers are a great tool in facilitating relaxation when the services of a masseur are not available. A massage is a lot better. Foam rollers, massage sticks, and similar gadgets are for those individuals who need to stretch and relax their muscles but cannot avail of massage due to some reasons. But if you can have a massage after training, save yourself time. You do not need to do foam rolling prior to having a massage.

– time is precious so the limited time in the gym can better be used to perform your main lifts. After your main training, then you can do foam rolling if you really need it.


  1. Posting “selfies” after every set.


– You do not need a psychiatrist to tell you that individuals who post photos of themselves every hour of the day have some disorder.

– Instead of just taking “selfies” with those labial like lips, it would be a lot more productive to ask someone to record a video of you doing any lift that requires technique. Ask that the video be taken from the side, yes, your face is not important in this one. It should show the start of the lift until the moment when at least one repetition is completed. It should show all of your bodyparts and the barbell or kettlebell. This will help you identify areas that need improvement. Better yet, show it to a Strength Coach knowledgeable in those lifts and ask how you can improve your lift. Or you can send your video to your “online coach” if you a have one. Only then can you post your video. It will help you and others, instead of becoming an hourly annoyance.

Think about it. Do not make a fool of yourself. Train Better, Live Better!

Many athletes, sports coaches, and administrators have a wrong notion of what a Strength and Conditioning Coach is. This makes them set wrong expectations when working with a Strength and Conditioning coach. Here is a personal point of view on the description of what a Strength and Conditioning Coach is NOT. Of course there are always personal differences and some are due to institutional policies. But whether or not I am working for an institute or as a freelance Strength & Conditioning Coach, I do not agree with providing services beyond the scope of my specialization. I respect my profession and that of others. I expect other professionals to do the same and stop trying to be a strength coach if they are not qualified with credentials, skills, and experiences.


Usually here in Asia, only scholarship athletes  in a sports institute have access to the services of a strength and conditioning department. If you are one, make the most out of your training time. Learn everything you can since only a privileged few are given the chance to train and learn in sports institutes. You would be lucky if you can avail of the services of an experienced strength coach. Others would have to hire their own Strength Coach and this would be short term arrangements depending on the goals and their paying power. Some fitness enthusiasts who can afford will benefit much if they hire a Strength Coach to work with them in their lifting skills.


Related Post: Strength and Conditioning Coach…  What???


To have realistic expectations, here are 14 descriptions of what a  Strength and Conditioning Coach is NOT:


  1. I am not your personal trainer

I am your Strength Coach. My job is to coach you in lifting barbells, kettlebells, dumbbells, and your bodyweight so that you will be stronger, more powerful, and less prone to injury compared to your previously untrained self. My job is not to make you look good although you will have that chiseled look as a training by product in some instances.


  1. I am not a salesman

In the Sports Institute, I train athletes. They are not clients. I do not get paid by the number of athletes I work with. I get paid the same amount even if I train 0 or 100 athletes in a day. I was hired because of my professional qualifications, knowledge, attitude, skills, and experience working with the best athletes of a country preparing for top level competitions. I would do my job as efficiently as I can and, depending on how the management runs the institute, I may be decked with one athlete on any given time or 30 plus junior athletes with varying levels of athletic development. This makes me change training approach so as to cope with the load but being decked with too much athletes to coach at a given time lowers my attention time for each athlete. So remember, I do not need to sell my services to clients. So do not expect me to go chasing after you so I can train you. You chase your dreams as an athlete.

If I am working for myself, I would not train everybody. I would train people who will benefit with what I have to offer.


  1.  I am not your masseur

I can show you how to stretch yourself but I won’t stretch you. It is an insult to your abilities if I would treat you like a baby. You can seek the services of the masseur if you want to be stretched or want a massage. They do it a lot better than me since that is their specialization, that is where they are trained and most of all, that is their job.


  1. I am not your psychologist

If you are having a bad day, or fought with your boyfriend, or is simply not in the mood to train, do not let it affect your training. It will only make things a lot worst. You are given the rare opportunity to be a representative of your country in the sporting arena and it is your responsibility to train on your training schedule and be the best that you can be. You are also being given a lot of support including the services of qualified and experienced professionals who expect that you, at least, have the character of someone willing to improve. Act like a responsible person who people depend upon. So do not come to me expecting me to listen to your personal problems if it is time for you to train. I am here to show you the way how to train for a certain goal and it is up to you to follow. I expect a lot of professionalism from you. If you come to the gym just for compliance, I would notice it and it does affect my attitude too. I do not like wasting my time with people who do not value my time or theirs.

You might say I am impersonal but I learned my lessons: people take advantage of you when you are nice. And they always expect you to bend and accommodate their tardiness and lame excuses because you are simply nice. I would not want to act like a parent to you but I hate tolerating bad behaviour. If I let you go away with it without a word, it simply means you were successful in destroying my interest in figuring out how to help you perform better.


  1. I am not your nanny or your maid.

On our first training session, I would orient you to put the things that you used back to their proper place. Initially I would help you load up your bar so you can learn the proper way of doing it. But it is your responsibility to clean up your mess. I know you will see a lot of other athletes who are just so lazy, irresponsible, and vain who would go across the gym to pick up a dumbbell just to use it in front of a mirror and then drop it after each set. It is your choice if you want to follow their example. If you do, you will give me the impression that you are a lazy stinking a____l_. If you want to keep dropping the dumbbells, please aim for your toes. Thank you.


  1. I am not your secretary

Prior to our first training session, I would have informed you or your sports coach our training schedule and we have agreed on it. I understand that if you are not a full time athlete, you may not be able to comply with all the schedules. But if you are training full time, there should be no reason to be late or absent from training. Be late or absent often and I would lose interest in coaching you the best I can. I would be happier if you just don’t show up…ever. I will still get paid anyway, while you will remain weak and ugly. It is also your responsibility to keep your training log and to record your training. Do not expect me to remember all your previous loads.

  1. I am not your genie even if you call yourself Alladin

We will try our best to maximize the expression of your genetic potential. But remember, trying to be what you are not takes a lot of effort, determination and luck.

If you are not born with predominantly fast twitch muscle fibers, do not aspire to be a sprinter. Anyway, talent identification systems, your coaches, and honest observation would tell you if you have a great potential in your sport of choice. You and I should be pragmatic and work with your weaknesses so that they are minimized while we try to achieve small goals at a time. Ask your sports coach how to adapt a certain sports skill or technique for your condition. Do not expect to walk in the gym, tell me your wishes, and walk out biting your gold medal if you do not even have the determination to sleep early and get up early.


  1. I am not your sports coach

No matter how much we train in the gym if you do not practice your own sport, you will not improve your sports skills unless you are a weightlifter, a powerlifter, or a kettlebell athlete. Strength Training and Conditioning is supplemental training and not your main training. Do not use me as an excuse to avoid training with your sports coach either.


  1. I am not your spotter

Do not get into the habit of having a spotter all the time. Try to work on your lifting confidence. I will spot you if you are new and still learning or if you are lifting near maximal to maximal load. Other than that I would spot you if I don’t trust you to know well enough to lift safely but I won’t lift the weight for you for the whole set.


  1. I am not your personal assistant

A soldier who goes to the battlefield but forgets to bring his gun with him is as good as dead. Come to the gym well prepared with proper training attire. If you forgot your access card or your training attire, go get them. Do not ask me if I have spare shirt or shorts, I do not want somebody’s sweat soaking my clothes. You can use and keep my toothbrush too if you want.

  1. I will not be the one to compete for you

This is a hard fact: you are ultimately responsible for your life. Other people will not live your life for you. Same in strength training: you are shown the way but it is up to you to follow. Passing all the responsibility to me won’t make you a better athlete, it only makes you an irresponsible person undeserving of respect.


  1. I am not your physician

If you are sick or injured, go to the Sports Medicine department and consult the doctor. Then show me a note from them when you resume training with me so I know how to direct your training. Do not consult me when you are sick, consult the right person. Only assholes pretend to want to train when they are sick yet they would be late or absent from training when they are in good health.


  1. I am not your cheering squad

You are the one who should motivate yourself to train, if you cannot motivate yourself to train, better think of a different career. But expect positive and negative feedback from me regarding your lifts. The person more interested in training for your improvement should be you, not me, not your parents.


  1. I am not your magician

Adaptation from training takes time. Learning a lift takes time. Positive results do happen but not like as if it were effortlessly done by magic. My magic wand is a 20kg bar with revolving sleeve and my magic ball is made of steel not crystal and it has a handle. Most people call it a kettlebell. Rub the magic dust on your hands, it will make you do wonderful things. Its called magnesia or simply chalk.

Learning what to expect from a Strength Coach helps you avoid unrealistic expectations. It also lets you maximize the services and you will know how to Train Better, Live Better!